A History Lesson About the Consequences of Reporting Inaccurate Information Up the Chain of Command

I asked ChatGPT: Which American aircraft carriers were reported as sunk by the Japanese armed forces in World War II, but showed up in the next battle to the great surprise of the Japanese?

ChatGPT’s answer:

During World War II, several American aircraft carriers were reported as sunk by the Japanese armed forces only to participate in subsequent battles, surprisingly:


1. USS Yorktown (CV-5): After being damaged during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, the Yorktown was reported by Japanese forces as sunk. However, the carrier was quickly repaired at Pearl Harbor in just a few days, allowing it to participate in the pivotal Battle of Midway in June 1942. The Japanese were surprised to see the Yorktown in action at Midway, where it played a critical role before being sunk by a Japanese submarine on June 7, 1942.

2. USS Enterprise (CV-6): The Enterprise was reported sunk by Japanese forces on multiple occasions. It was one of the most decorated ships of World War II and was involved in many major battles, surviving to see the end of the war. The ship’s repeated reappearances after being declared sunk were a testament to both the resilience of the ship and crew, and the inaccuracies of wartime intelligence.

3. USS Saratoga (CV-3) and USS Hornet (CV-8):  Similar reports of being sunk were made about these carriers, especially the Hornet, which was sunk at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942. Before its sinking, there were instances where the Hornet was reported to have sunk, but it appeared in subsequent engagements, contributing to the element of surprise against the Japanese.

The misreporting of these carriers as sunk and their subsequent appearances in battle were partly due to the fog of war, where accurate information was hard to come by, and the resilience and repair capabilities of the United States Navy, which often managed to return damaged ships to service much quicker than the Japanese anticipated.

My take away: if you are reporting incorrect information because that is what the leadership wants, it hurts everyone, so don’t.

This inaccurate reporting has been happening writ large in China, for the last decade, as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi moved through the local and regional government, academia, defense and the finance, construction and business world, eliminating any competent people who were reporting what was happening, as opposed to what Xi wanted to hear.  These competent people in all these sectors of Chinese society have been systematically eliminated by Xi.  So, now, data is not even being collected, let alone being reported up the chain of command.

It is a problem that will take China decades to fix, but only once and if Xi is removed from power, and replaced with a different kind of leader.  Until then, the breakdown of China that has already begun, will accelerate.

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